Strategy

Fake News and Negativity: Trump Inauguration Update

In the digital age, social media is the new bullhorn for movements. Whether it’s Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, or even the Ice Bucket Challenge, social media has a knack for moving the needle and affecting change. One would assume that the bullhorn with the highest volume would be that of President-Elect Donald Trump. So, why would he need to spend money on targeted advertising via Facebook to coax people into attending his inauguration ceremony?

It might seem desperate, or even embarrassing, but given President-Elect Trump’s successful use of social media in the past, perhaps we should give him the benefit of the doubt.

While there are reports of a struggle to fill seats at his inauguration ceremony, if his past social wins are any indication of what might happen come Jan. 20, there won’t be an empty seat in the house.

The following post was originally written on November 22, 2016.

Example No. 1

While political pundits and prognosticators questioned, criticized, and lashed out at President-elect Donald Trump’s unorthodox campaign style that included no ground game, relatively little fundraising, and seemingly no rhyme or reason to his selection of campaign stops, there was one area where Trump had a clear advantage over Secretary Clinton: social media.

As content marketers, we routinely praise the power of social media to current and prospective clients. It’s inexpensive (free, if you want) and offers a way to engage your audience that no other medium provides. When it comes to ways a brand can successfully coalesce and identify an audience’s pain points via social, Donald Trump’s campaign is Example No. 1.

While we certainly wouldn’t recommend brands use the same vitriol Trump did to attack his detractors, there’s a case to be made that his brazen, abrupt, and coarse language is almost tailor-made for social media. And, more importantly, he was able to tap into a common feeling among his audience: anger.

Negativity Trumped Positivity

Despite the popular notion that Republicans tend to be behind the technological curve, this simply isn’t the case when it comes to social media. In fact, a Pew Research Center poll found that Republicans are more likely to follow a political figure on social media than Democrats: 18 percent to 15 percent respectively.

But the candidates themselves aren’t the only way potential voters receive their information, and the information Republicans and Democrats engage with couldn’t be more different.

According to social media analytics company CrowdTangle, while the most popular stories published on self-identified liberal sites are “positive,” those published by self-identified conservatives are “negative.”

For example, the most shared post from all conservative publications studied included a picture of a sign that reads, “My generation grew up reciting [the Pledge of Allegiance] every morning in school with my hand on my heart. They no longer do that for fear of offending someone! Let’s see how many Americans will re-post and not care about offending someone!”

In addition, during the presidential primaries, the Republican candidates dominated Democratic candidates in Facebook and Instagram engagement. Trump’s most engaging post included an attack on illegal immigration and healthcare; while, among Democrats, Bernie Sanders had the most engaging post, which included a picture of the candidate with actor Christopher Lloyd dressed as his character from Back to the Future.

During the Primaries, Trump had 700,000 more Twitter followers and three times more interest than Clinton, according to Google trends, and he was the highest searched candidate.

This is a classic case of a brand knowing its audience and speaking directly to them. And in a time when people vote their party affiliation more than ever before (Trump won 90 percent of those who identify as Republican compared with party bastion Ronald Reagan carrying 85 percent in 1980), preaching to the choir is paramount to getting into the White House.

Perhaps more than initially thought, there’s a considerable amount of anger and mistrust on the right side of the aisle. For instance, polls show that seven out of 10 Republicans don’t think Obama loves America, 43 percent of Republicans believe Obama is a Muslim, and 41 percent believe he wasn’t born in the United States, a controversial stance that first catapulted Trump onto the national political stage.

Republicans are also less trusting of information from national news media, see more media bias, and are more likely to think receiving one-sided news is OK. This feeling of skepticism and prejudice has played a big role in the current fake news epidemic currently wreaking havoc on Facebook.

Though we wouldn’t dare suggest all Republicans agree with every word espoused on Trump’s Twitter feed, the president-elect did tap into a firebrand form of conservatism that makes up a considerable portion of the Republican party, and he successfully motivated them to vote using a highly negative social media campaign.

What We Can Learn From Trump

This subhead undoubtedly irks half the people who read it. But, there’s no harm in taking some notes from a successful presidential campaign, regardless of your political persuasion.

Here are some things your brand can implement to gain customers … without upsetting half the United States:

  • Know your audience: How old are they? Where do they live? What’s their income?
  • Identify and address their pain points: How are you going to make their lives easier?
  • Speak their language: Be conversational and use words similar to those they use on a daily basis.
  • Engage them: Answer questions and occasionally respond to mentions. Use social media as a forum.
  • Post often: No one will see you if you don’t post. We recommend posting multiple times a day.
  • Retweet and share information that might interest them: Just check the source to ensure they aren’t a white nationalist.
  • Use multiple platforms: Trump took full advantage of Facebook, Instagram, and most notably, Twitter.

While presidential candidates, when running for office, can be seen as a brand, remember that your brand is never a presidential candidate. There is plenty we can learn from Trump, but there’s also plenty from which you should steer clear. From a marketing and branding perspective, it’s important to stay positive and never get defensive. Trump might’ve won the presidency, but that doesn’t mean your brand will gain customers with the exact same tactics.

Want to increase your brand’s social presence? Contact me to take your brand to the next level.

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